to play Nikolai, learning the ropes in his new job as thug-for-hire for a criminal kingpin in London (Armin Mueller-Stahl). One of his first assignments is to apply muscle to a well-meaning nurse (Naomi Watts) who wants to return a diary of her dead patient. The diary contains vicious secrets, which she finds out after having it translated “¦ by the kingpin, whose true colors are unbeknownst to her.
From its trailer, “Eastern Promises” doesn’t look like it would amount to much, but Cronenberg followers know better. The script is complex, with layers and surprises slowly revealing themselves, while keeping you entertained with more than a fair share of unsettling suspense.
In an Oscar-nominated role, Mortensen impresses with a gravitas not exhibited in his more blockbuster roles. It’s a shame Cronenberg also couldn’t be up for the prize, having delivered one of the year’s best films.